Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Keanna's Creamy Pesto Pasta

A few weeks ago, Keanna made creamy pesto with bow tie pasta. At the time, I didn't take pictures to blog it so I had her make it again specifically for that purpose. The first time she made it, she used homemade pesto. Nothing can compare to the taste of fresh, homemade pesto. But in the interest of time, I had her use store-bought pesto this time. Costco currently has it on sale for a really good price.

Over 1 pound for under $5. And it's freezable!!

Keanna's Creamy Pesto Pasta
1½ lb. pasta
1½ c. cream
1 c. pesto
¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Pine nuts (optional garnish)
Fresh basil leaves (optional garnish)

Simple ingredients: cream, pesto, Parmesan cheese, salt, & pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. After putting the noodles into the boiling water, begin preparing the creamy pesto--the goal is to have the noodles perfectly cooked at the same time the sauce is finished. In a saucier or large sauce pan, heat cream at medium-high just until it begins to boil.

Turn heat as low as it will go. Whisk in pesto, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper.

Transfer hot pasta to a large bowl. Spoon creamy pesto over pasta and gently toss to coat. Sauce will thicken and soak into noodles as it sits and cools, so leave the pasta a little saucy. If desired, garnish with pine nuts and basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Almost any shape will do. Keanna just prefers bow ties.

This time we served it with bacon Brussels sprouts and Dutch crust rolls.

One batch as written above feeds my family of six one dinner and leaves leftovers for a few lunches.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Good, Clean Summer Fun: Backyard Hand Washing Station

My kids love playing outside in the dirt. The boys have been known to dig holes for no reason. April digs through the compost pile to find roly-polies. I love the fact that my kids enjoy spending time outside interacting with nature. But I do not want that nature coming into the house. A few years ago I set up a hand-washing station in our front yard. They kids love the ease of being able to wash their hands outside without having to come in the house. I love the ability to say, "Don't come in until your hands are clean."

If you'd rather watch a video tutorial, here you go. Otherwise, keep scrolling. (Sorry for the WeVideo logo--I'm still trying out different free video editors for the video production class I will be teaching next school year.)

Outdoor hand-washing stations are easy, inexpensive, and quick to set up. All you need is a pair of old tights, bar soap, and scissors.

1.  Cut the legs off of the tights.

2.  Insert bar soap into opening. Bonus: this is a great way to use up soap scraps.

3.  Push soap to foot of tight leg.

4.  Tie around outside faucet. I have one in the front yard and one in the backyard.

5.  Let the hand washing commence!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Keeping Summer Activities Organized

Remember the fabulous backpack center I made during the school year? If not, you can check it out here.


It definitely kept our backpack area clean, homework time and mornings a little less stressful, and Mommy a little more sane. I should have done it years ago!

Well, now that it is summer, the backpack center has transformed into the summer activities center. The backpacks have been stored away in the kids' closets until August and replaced by our outing necessities. I find that I am a lot more likely to get the kids out of the house if it takes less effort and work to get ready to go. Most of our activities involve the pool, so I keep all the pool essentials organized and ready-to-go at any moment.


Snack bag: The kids are always hungry, especially if they are being active at the pool, park, or beach. I take a variety of snacks on every outing to avoid hangry kids. I make sure any fresh fruit is cut for ease while at the pool. And I always take a stack of little paper cups to divvy up blueberries, goldfish crackers, grapes, and other small items so wet hands aren't fishing around in the containers. If we will be somewhere that doesn't have a water fountain, I also toss water bottles in the snack bag.

Grapes and blueberries in a non-squishable container.

Grape tomatoes in a non-squishable container.

Small water cups allow me to serve up snacks without wet
hands reaching into the snack containers.
They love fruit!

Blankets: We generally take two blankets--one designated as the "wet blanket" and the other designated as the "dry blanket." The old bed quilt is the wet blanket and the water-proof picnic blanket is the dry blanket. The water-proof bottom of the picnic blanket keeps moisture from the ground underneath from wicking up to those who wish to stay dry. And the lack of a water-proof layer on the wet blanket allows the water from the kids' bodies to drain through to the ground underneath and not pool up on the blanket.

Dry blanket on the left; wet blanket on the right.

This fantastic picnic blanket was a gift from my dad's cousin.

You can find them on Amazon or on the Tuffo website.

Folding instructions sewn in!!

Supplies bag: Goggles, sunscreen, snack money, pool information, books, pool toys, hair bands, etc. I keep every pair of goggles we own in the pool bag even though we don't need them all. Very often, the kids will make friends at the pool and will offer them a pair of our extra goggles. I also try to keep at least two bottles of sunscreen in the bag. Normally, I prefer to have only one of each such item, but it just makes sunscreening four to six people a lot faster to have two bottles.

My purse: When we head to the pool, I just transfer the few things I need from my purse to the supplies bag and leave it at home. Keeping my purse next to the supplies bag helps me remember to transfer items back and forth as necessary.

"Where are the towels?" you might be wondering. Each kid is responsible for his/her own towel. Before we leave for the pool, water park, or beach, they each grab their own towel and take it to the car with them. Mommy and Daddy do not carry kid towels. As soon as we return home from our outing, they each hang up their wet towel on the designated hook in their rooms. Of course, my kids are real kids and sometimes the towels don't actually make it to the hooks. When I find towels that are not put away, the culprits owe me a load of laundry washed, dried, and sorted. It won't take them long to learn to remember to put their towels away as soon as we get home.

Of course, this type of system will work with any type of activities. You may not be a pool family, but perhaps you have gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do, basketball, summer school, day camp, or music lessons. Designating a central location for activity supplies will make getting out of the house and to those activities more efficient.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Kids' Summer Cooking 2018, Week 2

This was a busy week with swim lessons for all four kids, doctor and dentist appointments for all six of us (some of us had multiple), pet sitting a bird, a gymnastics competition for April, a concert in San Francisco and youth group for Keanna, some bowling time for all the kids, an A's game for all of us and my parents, and a family outing to the opening of a community dog park.

Even with all the busyness and activity, we still required each kid to prepare one dinner. This week's menu was really fun and delicious:

The challenging one this week was April's menu. She specifically requested to make homemade French fries and not start with frozen ones in a bag. I knew that I would have to do the actual frying for safety reasons and that is a task that needs full attention, so I recruited Bapa (my dad) to help April grill her burgers in the backyard. Of course, the grill was also too hot for her to actually handle the meat on it, so we gave her as many jobs as we could so it was still her meal. For the French fries, she cut most of the potatoes.

April cut.

I fried.

They were soooo delicious!

For the burgers, my dad taught her how to evenly season the meat, how to avoid cross contamination when working with raw meat, and how to form patties.



Notice April's hanging out in the trampoline while Bapa does
the hot work of cleaning the grill.

When the meat was just about done, he let her put the cheese slices on the patties.


Hopefully in the near future, I'll have time to blog the process of making chimichangas. They are so easy and so good!

This coming week, the kids have double duty. Not only do they have to make one dinner, but they each have to make something to take to a 4th of July celebration. I'm looking forward to seeing what they all pick!

Monday, June 25, 2018

April's Summer Fruit Salad

My kids are frugivores (animals that eat fruit). We have to ration the fruit so they don't eat themselves into some serious tummy troubles. Our staple fruits are apples (Fuji and Granny Smith), bananas, and oranges. I buy those all year because they are almost always reasonably priced. But now that it's summer, other fruits have gone down in price! This week I bought peaches, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries. The kids are loving the variety.

About two weeks ago, April wanted to "make something with fruit." So I gathered what fruit we had at the time, and we threw together a fruit salad. It was an instant hit, and she has since made it two more times. The great thing about April's fruit salad is that you can use any fruit you want or that you happen to have on hand. Besides the fresh fruit I mentioned above, she has also used canned mandarin oranges and frozen peaches.

One thing to note is that you will want to adjust the amount of brown sugar depending on your personal preference and the sweetness of the fruit you use. You can also substitute other types of sweeteners if you prefer not to use brown sugar.

As the salad sits in the fridge, the juices will start to come out of the fruit so be sure to eat it within a few hours or up to one day of mixing it.

Regardless of how you make it, this fruit salad is sure to be a great addition to any summer meal.

April's Fruit Salad
5 c. bite-sized fruit pieces
1 c. Greek yogurt
2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar (or more or less depending on preference and sweetness of fruit)

Put all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently and thoroughly mix until brown sugar is dissolved into yogurt and all fruit is evenly coated.

Knife skills are valuable for children to learn.

Beautiful colors! This batch contains pitted and halved cherries,
blueberries, strawberries, Granny Smith apples, and Fuji apples.

April loves it when she has properly packed the brown sugar
and it retains its shape.

Stir gently so the fruit doesn't get smashed.

Enjoy the fruit salad of your labor!

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